Teignmouth Hospital set to close

“Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust is committed to continuing to engage with local people on both the development of the planned new health and wellbeing centre and the future of Teignmouth Community Hospital.”

“Committed to continuing to engage” this buzz phrase says it all – Owl

Ollie Heptinstall www.devonlive.com 

The first purpose-built NHS hospital looks set to close after a review dismissed concerns about consultation over the plans. An independent panel found the NHS consulted ‘adequately’ with councillors over the future of Teignmouth Hospital.

The community hospital on Mill Lane was the first to be built by the NHS in 1954 but is planned to close, with services moving to Dawlish Hospital and a new £8 million health centre in Teignmouth town centre. Doubts about the hospital’s future were first raised in 2014, and campaigners have argued against the closure decision made by NHS Devon. They say community hospital beds are “desperately needed,” and a petition titled ‘Hands Off Teignmouth Hospital’ has been supported by more than 1,000 people.

Last March, the county council’s health and care scrutiny committee reconsidered the NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group’s plans and decided they were unhappy with the lack of consultation over the future of the site. After referring the issue to the health secretary, it was announced in November that Sajid Javid had agreed to the request and plans to close the hospital would be reviewed by a panel of independent experts – the IRP.

The panel has now ruled that the CCG’s consultation with the committee was “adequate,” paving the way for the closure to go ahead. But it did warn there are “lessons to be learned for both parties, particularly around engagement with scrutiny committee members to resolve issues and agree reasonable timescales for discussion before a final decision on a proposal is made.”

The CCG said during its consultation process that the hospital site would be “likely to be sold to generate funds for reinvestment in the NHS”. But it has since told the panel that any decisions are for owner Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust to make.

Despite complaints from the committee, the panel’s report ruled: “…the future of Teignmouth Community Hospital under the proposal has been in plain sight for everyone and open for discussion with the NHS since 2018.”

However, it went on to say: “With hindsight, and given the sensitivities around this, the panel feels that the CCG perhaps could have been more explicit in its communication with the public about how they would be involved in determining the hospital’s future, should the proposal be implemented. In this regard, for example, the public consultation document was a missed opportunity.”

The NHS must also “engage the local community and interested parties, such as the local authority, in a programme to determine the future” of the site, it added, drawing on the example of nearby Dartmouth where the former cottage hospital could be taken over by the community.

Despite concerns about 12 rehabilitation beds not reopening, especially during Covid to help with capacity, the view of the experts was that: “…opening beds at Teignmouth Community Hospital is not a viable option to consider for providing additional COVID-19 capacity in the future.”

The report also concluded that the plans would not disadvantage groups with protected characteristics but agreed there are “still some legitimate concerns” around public transport and called for a group of stakeholders to work on the issues. In addition, it recommends the NHS “keeps its scenario planning and risk analysis of bed and workforce capacity under close review” following the pandemic, and that mental health services are included in the care model for the Health and Wellbeing Centre in Teignmouth.

Responding to the findings in a statement, MP Anne Marie Morris said the decision “is not one I welcome.” She added: “I remain very concerned that this decision is not in the best interests of Teignmouth residents given the lack of evidence that, following Covid, our local health system will have the capacity it needs, and lack of any evidence as to the adequacy of home-based care which it is argued satisfactorily replaces it.”

Ms Morris went on to say the panel had made “a number of helpful recommendations to ensure the community is fully involved in the future of the Teignmouth Hospital site. “For me that has to mean full consideration is given to options of including the site in some form in the ongoing provision of care in the Teignmouth community,” she added

Although there can be a judicial review of the process undertaken by the panel in the High Court, Ms Morris said it is “eye-wateringly costly and without a good case to show that the IRP process was flawed, could not succeed.” In the report, the panel says it “acknowledges the CCG’s evidence on reducing hospital admissions and that the integrated care model is able to care for around four times as many patients at home when compared to caring for patients on a ward at Teignmouth Community Hospital.”

Ms Morris added: “My priority now must be not only to ensure the recommendations proposed are taken up but to hold the CCG to account for what it says it can and will deliver to the residents of Teignmouth and I will be asking Healthwatch and Devon County Council to undertake full scrutiny of the quality and adequacy of home-based care.”

She commended the “tireless determination of the local Teignmouth community, the League of Friends of Teignmouth Hospital and the many other groups who have lobbied hard in our fight to save the hospital and ensure the provision of excellent healthcare in Teignmouth and more widely in Teignbridge.

“I would also praise Devon County Council’s health and care scrutiny committee for calling this in to the Secretary of State and recognising the deficiencies in the process. I have little doubt but that they will work with the Teignmouth community and the NHS to ensure these recommendations are implemented in full.”

In response to the findings, Dr David Greenwell, clinical representative for the southern locality on the governing body of NHS Devon CCG, said: “We are pleased that the Independent Reconfiguration Panel found that the CCG has fulfilled its responsibilities and we accept the additional recommendations made by the panel.

“The IRP noted that the CCG has carried out extensive engagement and consultation since 2013, and found that the future of Teignmouth Community Hospital under the proposal had been in plain sight for everyone and open for discussion with the NHS since 2018.

“We believe this is the right outcome for the future of health and care services in Teignmouth and Dawlish and we will now continue our focus on investing in a new health and wellbeing centre in the heart of the town.

“Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust is committed to continuing to engage with local people on both the development of the planned new health and wellbeing centre and the future of Teignmouth Community Hospital.”